Launch of free training on physical development

The Open University has developed a free online physical development (PD) course, which is due to launch on July 27 and is now open for enrollment.

Developed in partnership with Public Health England (PHE) and funded by Health Education England (Thames Valley), “Supporting Physical Development in Early Childhood” is a free 18-hour course, divided into three-hour sessions over six weeks . The course is hosted on the FutureLearn platform.

Each week includes a balance of essential background knowledge and practical advice, with opportunities throughout for students to reflect on their learning with others.

“The aim is to establish a basic level of knowledge on which further learning can be built and, ultimately, to establish a vibrant and supportive community of early childhood physical development specialists,” said Dr Jackie Musgrave, program manager for early childhood at the Open University.


The training, open to all practitioners working with children, covers six main areas:

Growth and physical development – examines the difference between growth and physical development and how these are measured from birth to age five; what support and advice is available for parents and guardians; and life factors that support or compromise children’s growth and PD.

Body systems, senses and physical development – covers the development of the senses and body systems of young children; the importance of working together to ensure harmonious overall development; and how to provide meaningful environments for babies and toddlers

Support the development of motor skills in children – explores how to develop fine and gross motor skills and how these can be better supported in practice; how children can move from the initial experience of a new skill to a mature and fluid version; and why the early movement experience provides the essential foundations for a successful and enjoyable subsequent engagement in school

Movement and learning – explores how motor skills underlie and support learning in all areas of development; how these skills emerge based on a child’s unique inner schedule; the role of adults in supporting the physical development of children; and how typical patterns of movement behavior emerge in each age group

Physical development and play – examines the importance of physical play in supporting the physical development of children; how risky and chaotic games can be promoted safely and effectively; the environments that best support physical play; “movement rich” environments and the role of adults; and ways to encourage local collaboration and community engagement

Movement and health – give advice on how children with underlying conditions or special medical needs, such as diabetes, asthma, obesity, learning disabilities or visual impairment, can be supported in their experience of movement and fully included in all physical activities; what support is available; and how to proactively involve parents and guardians in the physical development of their children


Dr Musgrave explained, “We want this course to be as useful and effective as possible and to meet the needs of practitioners seeking knowledge about promoting physical activity and the development of babies and young children.

“We need feedback so that we can make the recommended changes to the course. We are now seeking the support of practitioners to participate in the first presentation. We will ask practitioners to complete a survey that will give us the feedback we need to make improvements.

“The overall health and well-being of our young children is of increasing concern,” added Dr Lala Manners, Director of Active Matters and involved in the development of the course. “Their level of physical activity remains stubbornly low, obesity rates in this age group are high, and opportunities for children to be physically active are compromised by the demands of the program, attractive technology and lack of ‘safe and accessible outdoor spaces. “

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